Joseph P. Clancy, the former head of President Obama’s protective detail and the current acting director, is emerging as a top candidate to be the permanent new leader of the beleaguered Secret Service, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Obama has considered other candidates, including former FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, former Capitol Police chief Terrance Gainer and former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, according to these people. Davis had been scheduled to interview with Obama this week until he was told by the White House that the president had made a decision and that Davis was no longer in the running, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.
If Obama chooses Clancy, he will be bucking the advice of a panel of experts tapped last year by the administration to recommend changes. Among the panel’s suggestions: hiring a new director from the outside who could bring a fresh perspective.
Members of that panel were appearing Thursday morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to discuss, in part, the Secret Service’s search for new leadership.
Clancy, 59, who has made clear his interest in getting the job, has made a good impression on Capitol Hill. A 27-year Secret Service veteran, he has assured nervous lawmakers he is serious about reform.
In recent weeks, Clancy has forced out much of the agency’s upper management. The agency on Tuesday transferred Deputy Director Alvin “A.T.” Smith, who had been singled out by some lawmakers as part of the agency’s problems.
The management shake-up began in the fall, when Director Julia Pierson resigned amid a string of embarrassing security lapses and revelations of past mistakes.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, deeply trust Clancy, whom they called back from a new private-sector job in October to temporarily take the helm of the Secret Service during a moment of crisis.
The administration panel’s Dec. 15 report attributed several of the Secret Service’s missteps — including the agency’s inability to stop an intruder who jumped the White House fence in September from getting deep inside the mansion — to a stagnant, insular leadership team.
But in their appearance Thursday on Capitol Hill, panel members tempered the suggestion that a new director be hired from outside the agency, an apparent acknowledgment that Obama is strongly considering Clancy.
“All things being equal, [we thought] it would be useful to have outside perspectives,” said Mark Filip, a member of the panel and former senior Justice Department official. “But we fully respect that the choice of Secret Service director is the president’s. There is a unique relationship there. That person is responsible for the personal safety of the president and the first family.”
White House spokesman Shawn Turner declined to comment on the status of the president’s selection process.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has given Obama names of people his agency recommends for consideration, according to people briefed on the selection process. Johnson’s spokesman declined to comment on the selection process or potential contenders.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in an interview Thursday morning that he’s been impressed by Clancy’s handling of the agency’s problems, including his decisions to oust five top leaders, including the powerful deputy director.
“I believe Joe Clancy would do a great job,” Cummings said. “I just find him to be a breath of fresh air. His professionalism is top-notch. I think he is willing to do and has already begun to do what it will take to restore the Secret Service to the organization it needs to be.”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.